Dia De Los Muertos 2012

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 1, 2012 07:44am | Post a Comment
As I mentioned in previous blogs about Dia De Los Muertos, I look forward to this celebration more than other holidays. The older I get, I feel the best way to celebrate life is to celebrate death without fear; with the same celebratory spirit one would have for a birth or an anniversary. The ritual of Dia De Los Muertos, the ofrenda (altar) the food and drink, and having the time to reflect those who have passed on are all-important components of this celebration. This is the day we party with the dead as we would with the living, some we knew intimately and others we admire and wish we knew better.

Besides celebrating family and friends that have passed on, I like to include musicians and artists who have inspired me in some way. This year, many great musicians have passed. Consider this a digital ofrenda to them. I hope these musicians have inspired you as much as they have I.

The Bass Players

Two amazing bass players passed this year. Bob Babbitt was a member of the infamous Funk Brothers, the backing group of musicians that played on many of the best Motown recordings of the 60’s and 70’s. Donald “Duck” Dunn did the same damage for Stax Records as a member of Booker T And The MG's, playing behind many of the greats on the Stax Records roster. You may not know their names but I bet you can hum their bass lines by heart.

Babbitt played bass on such Motown classics as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder, "War" by Edwin Starr, "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues" by Marvin Gaye, "Band Of Gold" by Freda Payne, "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)", and "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" by The Temptations.

Dunn played on such Stax classics as Otis Redding's "Respect" and "I Can't Turn You Loose", Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'", and Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" Later, he played on Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and was a member of The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Both Dunn and Babbit played until their deaths this year.

The Organ Players:

Jon Lord was probably the most infamous of rock organ players. His signature distorted organ is what made Deep Purple unique. If you dig deep into Deep Purple’s sound, you realize that it wasn’t Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar sound that made their sound “heavy”; it was those deep distorted chords layered throughout their songs that created their sound. Listen to any cover band that tries to play “Smoke On The Water” without a distorted organ and notice how thin it sounds. Lord made that group.

Leon Spencer recorded a few solo albums of what they now called Acid Jazz or Rare Groove. Before his groove was rare, Spencer played on many funky jazz recordings, playing behind Lou Donaldson, Melvin Sparks, Gene Ammons, Rusty Bryant and Sonny Stitt. His style was modeled after the legendary Jazz organist Jimmy Smith and he is often unfairly compared to him. Still, Spencer being younger than Smith reached out and took influence from younger organ players outside of the Jazz circuit such as Brian Auger and Ray Manzarek of The Doors and implemented their style into his sound. The result was a somewhat out-sounds that Smith never realized. 

The Singers:

Somewhere in the world right now, a wedding DJ is playing “At Last” from Etta James as a first couple dance. I preferred the more gut-retching songs such as "All I Could Do Was Cry" and “I’d Rather Go Blind” which I felt best exemplified her as a person; melancholy and often struggling with inner demons. She was blues music personified. 

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, you couldn’t turn on the radio and not hear Donna Summer’s music. Deemed, “The Queen Of Disco” her gospel influence voiced merged well the tech-disco of Giorgio Moroder on such songs as “Love To Love You Baby” and the classic, “I Feel Love” which was instrumental in influencing British synth-pop groups as Yaz, The Human League, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and many others. Later, she had a string of hits that top the charts for most of the 1978-1980, including the classic, "On The Radio" which is still one of the best teenage angst  anthems ever.

Chavela Vargas, who I wrote about earlier this year, was born in Costa Rica but adopted by Mexico for her celebration of Mexican music, art and lifestyle. Her adaptations of rancheras, boleros, norteños and other styles of Mexican music far surpassed many of her peers that became more of a household name. Like Etta James, she was blues personified, albeit Mexican Blues, but still blues.

Kitty Wells  “It Wasn’t God That Made Honky Tonk Angels” was in every country bar jukebox in the outskirts of Los Angeles that I frequented in my early 20's. It was the rebuttal to Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side Of Life” a song about how wayward women were to blame for the demise of men. Wells response was that for every unfaithful woman, there was a man to blame.

Other Greats and Innovators

Don Cornelius was the host and creator of Soul Train, a television show that introduced soul music to mainstream America. It was my first exposure to James Brown, George Clinton, Barry White, Zapp and many other great artists. Being a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, he took that same energy of the movement to create a program gave a platform for black culture to shine. It was an example that the best way anyone gets to understand a culture different is too make it so cool that everyone wants to be a part of it.

Much like Cornelius, Adam Yauch was an innovator of cool. He wasn’t just a rapper or a musician. With the rest of The Beastie Boys, they helped create a culture that melded many other cultures together. Most of their fans were introduced to from DJ and Hip-Hop culture, Punk, Rare Groove Jazz, World Music, film, art, fashion and festivals through them. Much more than their music, The Beasties promoted culture.The Beastie Boys showed us it was perfectly fine to grow and reinvent oneself. We watched The them grow from snotty punks to respectable men without losing any passion for art. Yauch was instrumental in this. He was a great bassist, had an eye for film-making and was a conscious human being

Luis Alberto Spinetta was another artist not afraid to change with the times. His music is as relevant now as the time it was originally released. Coming from the Argentine psychedelic rock scene, his bands included Almendra, Pescado Rabioso, Invisible, and Spinetta Jade, followed by a long solo career. He was not only a great musician; his lyrics were quite poetic and often the source of many Argentine school debates on the relevance of rock and roll poetry. His music spanned from garage, psyche, hard rock, progressive rock, 80’s new wave and even grungy 90’s rock, which is what his late 60’s music sounded like anyways.

Other great musicians to celebrate this year:

Jimmy Castor
Johnny Otis
Yomo Toro
King Stitt
Chuck Brown

Levon Helms
Davy Jones
Bob Welch
Ossie Hibbert
Ed Lincoln
Obo Addy

On November 2nd, 2012, come join me at Espacio 1839 for our own Dia De Los Muertos celebration in conjunction with Eastside Luv's "Night of the LUVing DEAD"

Featuring live performances by 
Johnny Vatos Boingo Dance Party
(ft. former members of Oingo Boingo: Johnny Vatos on Drums, John Avila on Bass, Steve Bartek on Guitar, Sam Sluggo Phipps on Sax, Carl Graves on Keyboard, Doug Legacy on Keyboard)
Ceci Bastida
Maria del Pilar
Mariachi Los Toros
DJ Set by Gil Cerezo of Kinky
DJ Canyon of Subsuelo

Free and All Ages 2pm-2am
Indoor & Outdoor Beer/Wine Garden for 21+

Espacio 1839 is a new retail/community radio station/art gallery located in Boyle Heights. It is the new home to, Imix Books, Teocintli and Discos Inmigrantes. Espacio 1839 sells books, LPS, clothing, jewelry and will have a special Dia De Los Muertos art show.

Eastside Luv's "Night of the LUVing DEAD" will be held at The Mariachi Plaza on East 1st Street between Boyle & Bailey, accessible by the gold line.

Espacio 1839 is located at 1839 E. 1st Street , Los Angeles 90033 in Boyle Heights, just a few feet from the Mariachi Plaza

Relevant Tags

Stax Records (3), Beastie Boys (27), Chavela Vargas (1), Luis Alberto Spinetta (4), Dia De Los Muertos (9), Motown (12)